Can Guinea Pigs Eat Potatoes? Risks, Serving Size, And More

Joan Agie
Feb 29, 2024 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 29, 2021
Little black and white guinea eating cabbage leaf
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.7 Min

While potatoes are considered healthy in some forms, they are not as beneficial to the health of a guinea pig!

Potatoes are one of the most versatile vegetables as they can be boiled, fried, and cooked in so many different ways. Thus, it is common to wonder if you can feed your favorite form of potatoes to your guinea pig so he can appreciate the tasty snack too!

Potatoes contain high amounts of carbohydrates, starch, alkaloids, vitamin C, calcium, vitamin K, fiber, and many other minerals as well. These are usually safe and even healthy for people to consume but despite guinea pigs needing these supplements, they can be harmful to their digestive system and in some cases, and even kill them.

The fiber in potatoes helps with digestion and controlling cholesterol, while the starch can keep blood sugar and insulin levels under control. Calcium is especially necessary for all babies to make their bones and teeth strong and fortunately, it is found in potatoes as well. Other minerals include copper, magnesium, and potassium. Copper does an amazing job of developing red blood cells in the body, thus protecting it from anemia. Potassium and magnesium are also very useful in taking care of the heart and preventing heart diseases. Potatoes also contain a lot of vitamins, such as vitamin C and vitamins B1 and B3, which help in controlling cholesterol and improving metabolism.

Thus, the nutritional value of potatoes is very high and has the potential to benefit guinea pigs. Then why are potatoes still considered extremely harmful and toxic for guinea pigs to eat? Keep reading the article to find out!

Looking for similar content? Be sure to check out our articles on can guinea pigs eat apples? And can guinea pigs eat avocado? Here on Kidadl. 

Are potatoes safe for guinea pigs?

Guinea pigs have a herbivorous diet and in the wild, their natural diet is leaves, twigs, and other forms of low-lying grass and plants. The grass is what provides them with fiber to help their digestive system. Thus, fiber is needed for guinea pigs to digest and process food in their bodies. This fiber is provided to them in the form of hay, commonly, timothy hay, instead of grass when they live in a household. However, in the case of potatoes, there are also a lot of harmful toxins present in them other than fiber. These substances include alkaloids, solanine, calcium, carbohydrates, calories, and fructose. While calcium, carbohydrates, and sugar, in the form of fructose, are not necessarily harmful to guinea pigs, they are present in potatoes in such high concentrations that they become toxic to guinea pigs.

Your guinea pig deserves the best toys and the tastiest food but it is also very important to know which foods can hurt your furry friend and affect its health. A normal diet for a pet guinea pig consists of timothy hay, pellets, grass, and fresh fruits and vegetables. These foods should contain high amounts of fiber to help your guinea pig's digestive system and some carbohydrates to give them the energy to play around. Most owners often feed their guinea pigs with a cup of fresh fruits and vegetables every day in safe amounts. This is to supplement their diet with required nutrients such as vitamin C and other proteins and minerals.

While potatoes still contain many minerals and have a high nutritional value, they also contain poisonous substances like alkaloids, solanine, sugar, starch, and high amounts of calcium. These can be very harmful to a guinea pig's health and may kill them. The same stands true for most types of potatoes except for sweet potatoes, which belong to a different plant family.

A sweet potato generally does not usually contain the same amount of toxic substances such as alkaloids and solanine but does have even more sugar and fat than regular potatoes. It may also contain a good amount of vitamin C, which is important for guinea pigs to consume as their bodies cannot produce their own vitamin C. Thus, it is safe to feed your guinea pig with a slice of sweet potato but only once or twice in a month as the amount of sugar can cause many health issues.

Why are potatoes lethal to guinea pigs?

Guinea pigs can only digest hay, grass, raw herbs, and several types of fresh fruits and vegetables. However, potatoes do not form a part of their natural diet and even a little bit, whether raw or cooked, can lead to many health problems and even death, in some cases if a guinea pig happens to eat it.

Potatoes belong to the nightshade family of plants, which are known to contain alkaloids and solanine. This substance called solanine is a type of poison that is present in other vegetables such as tomatoes as well. If consumed in large amounts, such as in raw potatoes, it can harm humans too and cause diarrhea, vomiting, hallucinations, and headaches. Fortunately, it becomes safe for humans to eat cooked potatoes as it reduces the concentration of the said poison. However, this small amount of solanine can easily harm the tiny guinea pigs and cause them immense pain. It will also be dangerous to feed guinea pigs with potato leaves and stems as well. This is because solanine is present in all parts of the plant, including potato leaves, stems, and flowers.

Potatoes contain huge amounts of calcium as well. Calcium is necessary, not just for humans, but also for guinea pigs. However, it is only needed when they are very young as it will help in the growth and development of their bones and teeth. The requirement for calcium intake decreases as they grow up and adult guinea pigs require 0.28 oz (8 g) of calcium. Thus, a large amount of calcium present in potatoes will be too much for them and will harm them instead of being beneficial to them. It can lead to urinary problems and pain.

Fructose, which is a form of sugar, also forms an important part of the composition of the potato. A single potato contains a lot of sugar. It is considered to be very harmful to a guinea pig's health and should never form a large part of their diet as it can lead to diabetes. The amount of carbohydrates and calories present in a potato is also why a guinea pig cannot eat potatoes. They can lead to obesity and thus, give rise to a lot of heart problems and reduce the lifespan of your beloved pet.

Side Effects Of Potatoes

The risks of feeding potatoes to guinea pigs are substantial. Even if they eat a little bit of potato, it can have serious consequences and affect their health.

Raw potatoes contain alkaloids and solanine, which is a type of poison and can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach aches. If a guinea pig eats a slightly higher amount of potatoes, the solanine present in it can even kill them. This substance is so dangerous that it can affect humans too, that is why potatoes are often cooked, baked, boiled, or fried by people before they eat them. However, the human body can process cooked potatoes, while the body of a guinea pig is not. In fact, guinea pigs cannot digest or process any type of cooked food, much fewer potatoes. This is because even when cooked, the potatoes may still contain a toxic amount of solanine that will be enough to harm your guinea pig.

The amount of calcium, oxalate acid, and sugar present in potatoes is too much for guinea pigs and makes potatoes very unsafe to feed your guinea pigs with potatoes. The excess calcium can form kidney stones, which can lead to blood in the guinea pig's urine, pain, and other urinary problems. The carbohydrates and calories can also make your guinea pig gain a lot of weight and cause many health issues that shorten its lifespan.

It is important to know that it does not matter if guinea pigs like to eat potatoes or not. Guinea pigs will generally eat anything that is offered to them if it piques their interest, but they do not know if it is good or bad for them and it is the responsibility of their owner to know which food they can eat. These foods they can eat include things like hay and fresh vegetables, and foods they cannot eat and are toxic for them include potatoes and iceberg lettuce.

In case guinea pigs eat a potato by accident, put it away so they cannot eat any more of it. Keep a close check on your guinea pig for the next few days for signs of poisoning like vomiting, diarrhea, or bleeding. Provide your guinea pig with plenty of water and contact your veterinarian immediately and seek their advice regarding how to take care of your pet.

Funny guinea pig eating grass in the garden

Are all types of potatoes harmful for guinea pigs?

We know by now that regular potatoes are toxic for guinea pigs and even a small amount of it can put your pet at risk of disease and even death. However, there are many types of potatoes available, such as sweet potatoes, yams, and different types of ways potatoes are prepared by humans before they eat them.

First, let us consider the different parts of a potato and a potato plant. Guinea pigs cannot eat potato skin or peel because it also contains similar toxic substances that the inside of potato does despite being full of nutrients and vitamin C. Potato sprouts and vines are also highly toxic, even to human beings, and should be avoided altogether. Similarly, many people assume that they can feed their guinea pigs with potato leaves. All parts of a potato plant contain solanine, which can be lethal to guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs cannot process cooked or processed food at all. Thus, you should never give your guinea pigs baked, boiled, or fried potatoes. You might think that your pet would enjoy the same tasty snacks like french fries or potato chips, but it is poisonous for the little guinea pigs.

If you were wondering whether your guinea pig can eat sweet potatoes, then you are in luck! Yes, guinea pigs can eat sweet potatoes. These belong to a different plant family than regular potatoes and thus, do not contain the poisonous substances that can kill your pet. Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin C that can be beneficial to your guinea pigs to fight off and prevent diseases like scurvy. However, guinea pigs cannot eat sweet potato slices regularly as they still contain a lot of starch, sugar, and oxalate acid that can be harmful to their health.

Similarly, guinea pigs can eat yams, which are also a type of tuber, because they contain a lot of vitamin C. However, you should not give them to your pet to eat more than twice a week as it can put the guinea pig's digestive system and overall health at risk. Yam leaves, on the other hand, are safe for guinea pigs to eat and can be given to them more often.

Thus, guinea pigs cannot eat potatoes in any form, whether they are cooked or raw. It is better to stick to their recommended diet within a household. This includes food specified for guinea pigs like timothy hay, fortified pellets, and fresh fruits and vegetables that are safe for them to eat.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for can guinea pigs eat potatoes? Then why not take a look at can guinea pigs eat mango, or rex guinea pig facts?

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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